After five years of development, Guild Wars 2 (GW2) claims to have redefined the genre of the Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplay Game (MMORPG). Most of this comes from the wide array of new features that have been implemented in GW2 has implemented, including: dynamic events, dynamic combat, unique personal story lines, engaging PvP on massive scale, and anti griefing mechanics. The real question on everyone’s mind is: “Did they pull it off?”

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For a game not even released yet, the attention to detail of both the characters and the world is simply amazing. The whole world does look hand painted, and I frequently see what appears to be brushed effects both to the ground and the mountains. The visual spell effects and skills are unique to each profession, and in many cases have are unique enough look that you can easily identify what the skill was.

World-renowned video game composer Jeremy Soule composed the audio score. Soule, who is best known for his work on Morrowind, Oblivion, and Neverwinter Knights, delivers a musical score on par with the theme music from a Hollywood blockbuster hit.  Besides the great music, voice acting also excels with very unique voices for each of the different NPC’s and Player Characters. Essentially the audio from Guild Wars 2 has me in awe of the production quality, Arenanet has put together.

The combat learning curve is a bit large at first, however the starter areas are more forgiving then the later maps, and now include pop up tutorials explaining the mechanics of combat in greater detail. The mechanic of dodging damage rather than absorbing damage was designed to provide us with a more dynamic combat system rewarding you for positioning and avoiding damage in combat. Unlike the common type of combat employed by other MMO’s where you just trade hits and the one who comes out on top is simply due to gear and levels. This system once understood and implemented will provide you with a very enjoyable playing session. The controls are responsive and the keys can be re-mapped to fit your play style. The User Interface is very intuitive, although at this time is not able to be edited. The game play in Guild Wars 2 is the shining star of this game.

The character generator is very well done however it may not contain as many options as other MMO’s have provided in recent years such as Star Trek Online and Champions Online. Most of the races will appear within limits of the race you chose, no really tall Asura and no really short Norn will be seen in the game. However once you have picked your hair color and armor colors, you are then whisked off to a multiple question demographic section about your character.  These questions flesh out your character’s history such as were you an adopted child or did you secretly wish to join the circus or did you pass out at a recent Moot (Norn festival). Your choices will determine your in game personal story, and future cut scenes will incorporate portions of these answers.

The personal story essentially starts at level 1 and is a really large chain of quests that will take you to level 80. This quest line is designed to be the only quest tracked in your character sheet. The other things you do in the game world will be done literally in the world, and will be much more spontaneous. You will help the farmer water her cows and she will reward you. It’s as simple as wandering around finding someone doing something and getting involved. Then as you wander around the countryside you will find random things occurring all around you marked by orange symbols on the mini-map. These events are the dynamic events and they will reward you for your participation and will swing the direction of the future events in the region.  Many of the dynamic events I have seen were all exciting and well done with a few of them needing the difficulty scaled down a bit, but overall very fun stuff.

The Player vs Player modes found in Guild Wars 2 are significantly entertaining, no longer do you have to worry about the person who is geared to the hilt making you smashed chainmail. However the game balances the competitive 5v5 maps by equipping each guardian or warrior with the same armors and equivalent weapons. This now puts the emphasis on enjoying owning the noobs and less on what gear you need in order to compete.

The open area PvP called World vs World vs World or WvWvW for short is shaping up to be an entertaining venue of keep and castle sieges. These sieges can be quite small to very large employing siege weapons and defenses.  There was nothing more satisfying then poring hot oil over the heads of the raiding party and watching them scatter as they realize what just happened. For those of you who love PvP, you are in for a real treat.

One thing that is yet to be seen is how much re-play value you will find in this game, the development team has stated that they will be doing new dynamic quests for all maps in the game and will simply input this into the game and turn down the frequency of the already played events. If they manage to do this frequently enough the game will truly feel like a dynamic world, encouraging you to return to lower level zones later on. Yet if Arenanet does not follow through on this promise they might find some people unwilling to endure the same dynamic quests on alternative avatars.

Overall I find that Guild Wars is one of the most promising MMO’s in recent years and we have had a good crop of new MMO’s recently. However the harvest will be far greater if the support for the game continues as promised post launch. The free to play model will truly be tested on this Triple A title and I feel we will soon see if this gamble will work out for Guild Wars 2. As happy as I am that it will be free to play, I also understand the specifics of running a business and we can truly hope they do produce enough revenue to keep the support in place.

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